Birrell, Pond in game of chicken
by Jon Gillooly
May 05, 2013 12:30 AM | 2988 views | 7 7 comments | 15 15 recommendations | email to a friend | print
MARIETTA — Commissioner JoAnn Birrell’s old nemesis, Joseph Pond, has tagged her with a second ethics complaint — and given the bitter history between these two east Cobb rivals, feathers are likely to fly.

Last December the county’s seven-member ethics board cleared Birrell of Pond’s charge that she violated the county’s ethics code by failing to show impartiality on a variance involving backyard chickens.

The county’s code enforcement department had cited Pond for keeping a dozen hens on his half-acre lot. The zoning law at that time stipulated that a property owner needed to have 2 acres to keep chickens. Pond was forced to give his chickens away.

Pond’s latest ethics complaint accuses Birrell of providing false statements in the brief she submitted through her attorney, Fred Bentley Jr., to the ethics board during the first case.

“Basically, I’m charging that she violated state law,” Pond said.

Birrell dismisses the charges as frivolous.

“I have done nothing illegal or unethical, and I rest my case,” Birrell said. “There’s nothing there of substance.”

Lynn Rainey, attorney for the ethics board, said the board has 60 days to review the information to determine whether to move forward. The maximum penalty for an ethics violation is reprimand or censure.

Bentley dismissed Pond’s accusations as baseless, saying he would vigorously defend Birrell.

“We believe it is completely baseless and has already been decided, and is nothing more than an attempt to harass the good commissioner,” Bentley said.

Birrell said Pond is using taxpayer money by causing her to have to pay Bentley to defend her against the complaint.

“It’s really your taxpayers’ money that’s paying him for a frivolous ethics complaint,” she said.

One of the false pieces of information Birrell submitted to the ethics board, according to Pond’s complaint, was her relationship with Carole Kell, mother of Cobb Superior Court Judge Tain Kell. Carole Kell lives adjacent to Pond and has complained about his chickens in the past.

Pond said Birrell submitted a brief testifying that she was never invited to Kell’s property. Yet an email Pond attaches in his complaint from Kell to Birrell states: “I invite you at anytime to come down, stand on my deck and look at this mess.”

Pond said his new complaint against Birrell has nothing to do with sour grapes.

“Not only is that nonsense, but it’s irrelevant to the fact that the commissioner broke the law, and no one’s doing anything about it,” he said.

The county has since revised its code on chickens, now allowing residents who want to have hens on fewer than 2 acres to apply for a $150 variance with the county’s Board of Zoning Appeals.

Pond said his hearing before that board is on Wednesday.
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Margarita S.
May 07, 2013
Over the past year I have come to know & greatly admire Joseph Pond for the effort he has been leading at great personal cost on behalf of thousands of Cobb County residents who recognize that Cobb's current Code violates the God-given rights of private property and self-sustenance with its overly restrictive ordinances regarding feathered animals as pets and/or a source of healthy inexpensive food - the latter being of great concern to many in a time of increasing economic hardship. He has shown diligence in his research, respect in his consideration for all viewpoints & concerns, perseverence in his community outreach to personally discover the thoughts & desires of people in Cobb (something that the BOC might have tried doing more of - and not just the opinion of the East Cobb Civic Association board), and heroic commitment. This is not just about chickens, it's about our rights as property owners. The Code is outdated, most people do not even know the Code's details when moving to Cobb, and a large percentage of residents in a variety of neighborhoods want it changed such that chickens & ducks are regulated the same as dogs, cats, ferrets & parrots currently are - it's that simple. If there has been ANY neglect on the part of the BOC to consider this without bias to this elite group or that special person, I would hope every resident of Cobb would want to know that. I thank Joseph Pond for exercising the diligence that all of us should in holding our elected officials accountable.
J. Virden
May 06, 2013
I don't see what the big deal is with the chickens. Perhaps a dozen may be a few too many for "personal use". Perhaps a half dozen and a rooster without the county sticking it's nose in your business at all. If your subdivision has covenants otherwise in place before you get chickens that would superseded.

May 06, 2013
Pond, why don't you give it up? What are you trying to prove? You already won. You can have your chickens. You knew when you moved where you moved that you were moving into an urban area and not a rural one. All I see now from you is enjoyment from publicity. Why are you wasting taxpayer's money to fight what? You can have your chickens! Please ride off into the sunset. What else are you trying to do here, Pond, except to say in the news? You can have your chickens, I repeat. You won. What more do you want except for more publicity? And on my dime. P.S. I have noticed that there hasn't exactly been a run on people running out to buy chickens since you won. Pond, please count up how many thousands you have costs taxpayers minus what people save on eggs.
Joseph Pond
May 05, 2013
If the Cobb District Attorney, Vic Reynolds, will review the evidence presented, and make a public statement that NO law was broken, I will humbly withdraw my Ethics Charges and apologize to Commissioner Birrell at a BOC Meeting. For the integrity of Cobb County Government, I truly believe that he needs to weigh in on this.
JoEllen Smith
May 05, 2013
Mr. Pond, as a taxpayer who will have to pay for the cost of the Commissioner's defense, I'm upset that you seem to be a sore looser who is frivolously using the court system. I think this lawsuit is very silly based on what I read in this article. Commissioner Birrell seems to have acted appropriately and has nothing to fear. She receives probably hundreds of emails per week, so she shouldn't be penalized based on what someone else may have said in one of those many emails (if she even did receive it in the first place). At the most let's chalk it up to a MINOR error (if it winds up being that) but I don't see anything she did wrong. Why don't you just wait until your zoning hearing, when you might wind up getting the variance to own chickens? Will you sue again if the hearing doesn't go your way? Will you now come after me because I used my real name to post?
Agenda not chicks
May 05, 2013
Up to this point I thought this Pond guy was a little excentric but had a passion for chickens. Now it turns out he is just another nut job who thinks he can bully the government to give him anything he wants and without concern for the money he is costing taxpayers. And to think of all of the supporters he gathered who must be now cringing at the thought of being led by this would be pied piper who probably cares less about chickens and more about trying to have his 15 minutes in the spotlight. Well Mr. Pond your time is up and the taxpayers want you to go home and shut up and stop harrasing your neighbors and our government.
Chicken Little
May 05, 2013
An easy way to stop frivolous lawsuits, make loser pay all cost taxpayers are paying. The Commissioner should file an harassment charge againist Pond and have him pay his own defense.
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